When you return to exploring Las Vegas again, here’s a hidden gem even frequent visitors may not realize exists.
It’s the Brahma shrine at Caesars Palace.
Neon isn’t the only bling in Las Vegas.
The shrine sits near the entrance to Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, a few feet from the “Absinthe” tent.
The shrine is a replica of one of Thailand’s most popular shrines found at Bangkok’s Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. It was donated to Caesars Palace in 1984.
Shout-out to the only Brahma shrine in Western Hemisphere.
The shrine is 14 feet tall and weighs about 8,500 pounds. It originally weighed 1,200 pounds, but then the Bacchanal Buffet opened at Caesars, so that flew out the window.
Visitors stop by the shrine outside Caesars Palace because it’s said to “bestow prosperity and good fortune on those who come to visit and make their hopes and wishes known.”
Or, as gamblers put it, “Hey, it can’t hurt.”
Caesars directions: “Outside Hell’s Kitchen.” Bangkok directions: “Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road in Lumphini Subdistrict, Pathum Wan District.”
In the center of the shrine, Brahma has eight hands holding various objects like a vase (sacred water), a string of beads (karma), a book (knowledge), a spear (willpower), a conch shell (wealth) and Caesars Rewards loyalty club card (freebies). Unless, of course, it’s culturally insensitive to make jokes like that, then nevermind.
Beyond Brahma’s eight hands, it also has four faces.
The Internet can’t decide what the four faces mean. Some sources say they represent the divine states of mind: Loving kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity. Others say they represent career/life, relationship/family, wealth and wisdom/health.
The ’80s were a good time to be a plaque maker.
Fun Thai fact: In Thai culture, it’s best to avoid praying at the Brahma shrine during your period, as it’s considered disrespectful. We are not making this up.
The bottom line is the Brahma shrine at Caesars Palace has a lot of mojo and shouldn’t be overlooked as a place for calm and introspection and possibly an edge before you hit the casino.
The Bellagio Conservatory has rolled out yet another crowd-pleaser with its Chinese New Year display.
Flowering plants are also known as “angiosperms,” or as we refer to them, “Oh, grow up.”
This year’s Chinese New Year display was all the more impressive because it faced a couple of challenges.
First, it’s the Year of the Rat.
Designing a visually appealing display around a much-maligned rodent is no mean feat. The Conservatory’s horticulture team has, not surprisingly, delivered the goods with their usual flair.
Las Vegas rats sometimes travel in packs. We’ll wait.
The other challenge, of course, is it’s not just the Year of the Rat. It’s the Year of the Coronavirus. Awkward.
The freak-out about the coronavirus (which originated in Wuhan, China) is ongoing, with some concerned we could be in the midst of a full-blown pandemic. We don’t entirely know what a pandemic is, but it doesn’t sound like something we’d want to find in our salad.
While others might be inclined to shy away from a Chinese-themed attraction at this juncture, Bellagio has defiantly decided to stay the course and do a top-notch Chinese New Year display, anyway. And we love them for it.
Because if Vegas stops doing spectacle, the bug has already won.
If you can’t enjoy some whimsy, you’re probably just jaded.
The Conservatory not only manages to make us forget about the elephant(s) in the room, it pulls out all the stops by including just about every lucky symbol imaginable in the display.
There are lucky coins and birds and lions (no, they’re not dragons, rube) and lanterns and ding pots and jade medallions (shout-out to the pun in that last photo caption) and gold ingots and citrus trees and cherry blossoms and, yes, even koi fish.
The Bellagio Conservatory is currently home to about 75 koi.
Koi are very shy. At least that’s what they want you to think.
Naturally, there are metric ass-ton of flowers. We counted 31,980, although the official news release says there are 32,000. It’s possible Bellagio rounded up.
It’s worth noting they said the 2019 Chinese New Year display used 32,000. Somebody in Bellagio’s P.R. department is clearly tired of counting flowers.
In 2018, it was 22,000 flowers. You know, inflation. Oh, and in 2017, it was 22,000. Starting to see a pattern here? We should probably start following these flower counts from the Bellagio Conservatory with “ish.”
Here are some stats from the aforementioned news release:
Number of team members involved in building the display: 115-ish.
Height of the jade medallions: 20 feet-ish.
Height of the aforementioned rat: 14 feet-ish.
Number of changing Chinese lanterns: 6-ish.
Number of items included in this list to see if you’re still paying attention: 1-ish.
Number of cherry blossom trees: 6-ish.
Number of rats in the display: 5-ish.
The Bellagio Conservatory always draws a great crowd, despite the fact most of those people don’t spend a dime at Bellagio.
That’s probably the third elephant in the room.
And while we’re on the subject, China’s zodiac chart really could use an elephant. They could dump the goat. Goats can be jerks.
In what appears to be a cost-saving measure, the Bellagio Conservatory is reducing its number of seasonal displays in 2020. By one.
This year, rather than five seasonal displays, the Conservatory will have four.
It’s just one fewer displays. Please remain clam.
Instead of its traditional Spring and Summer displays, there will be a consolidated one: “Japan Journey: Magical Kansai.” This display will span two seasons, spring and summer.
We are not a math person, but the move should shave 20% off the Conservatory’s annual budget.
In the past, the Bellagio Conservatory had five seasonal displays: Chinese New Year (Jan. to March), Spring (March to May), Summer (June to Sep.), Autumn (Sep. to Nov.) and Winter (Dec. to Jan.).
In 2020, there will be four displays:
Chinese New Year (Jan. 11 to March 14)
Japan Journey: Magical Kansai (Mar. 21 to Sep. 12)
Autumn (Sep. 19 to Nov. 28)
Holiday (Dec. 5 to Jan. 4, 2021)
Christmas isn’t going anywhere.
Recently, there’s been a growing Japanese presence in some seasonal displays because of the efforts of MGM Resorts, operator of Bellagio (the resort was recently sold to Blackstone Group in a lease-back deal), to land a potentially lucrative casino in Japan.
Las Vegas observers have long wondered how long Bellagio would be able sustain this free attraction. While such attractions draw crowds, it’s questionable whether such crowds translate into customers.
Other free attractions, such as “Sirens of TI” at Treasure Island and “Parade in the Sky” at Rio have been nixed to cut costs.
For the moment, Bellagio should get some cost savings without visitors noticing one fewer seasonal displays.
Bellagio continues to be a major supplier of whimsy.
It’s unknown if the reduction in seasonal displays is related to the change of ownership of Bellagio, but time will tell if reductions continue or if Bellagio could (gasp) begin charging for the attraction to reduce costs further.
The classic Golden Goose statue, which once ruled the roost over the seedy Glitter Gulch strip club, has been returned to its former glory and can again be viewed on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
We’re excited you’re back! Sorry, “eggsighted.” Like you didn’t know what was coming.
The sign was donated to the Downtown Project by Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of The D and Golden Gate. The Stevens acquired the Golden Goose, along with Glitter Gulch, in 2016.
Downtown Project inherited both the Golden Goose and another iconic casino sign, the baseball player from Las Vegas Club. Here’s a photo of the signs near the Las Vegas Club demolition site.
Down, but not out.
Now, the Golden Goose resides farther east than its original location, at the corner of Fremont Street and 10th Street, near the entrance the Bunkhouse Saloon.
The Golden Goose looks awesome, and not only sports a new paint job, but also revolves, as nature intended.
Downtown Project hasn’t made a big deal out of the Golden Goose restoration, so we’re going to!
Props, Downtown Project.
All right, so maybe we used “big deal” a little loosely, but we genuinely think it’s awesome Downtown Project was willing to make an investment in Las Vegas history despite the fact there’s virtually no return on investment with a giant, spinning Golden Goose.
Vegas does kitsch right.
The Golden Goose casino opened in 1974 and closed in 1980. Before that, the space held State Cafe, Buckley’s and Mecca Casino.
Here’s to another bunch of decades.
We haven’t heard about any plans for the Las Vegas Club’s baseball player, but another iconic statue, Vegas Vickie, is being refurbished and will return to Fremont Street when Circa Las Vegas opens in Dec. 2020.
Here are a few more photos of the Golden Goose before and after its Fremont Street comeback.
Bellagio’s Conservatory continues to be one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas, and the resort’s talented horticulturalists and designers have outdone themselves once again with their fall 2019 display.
Let’s dive into the gloriousness.
The display has about 45,00 flowers. Yes, we counted to be sure because we take photo captions seriously.
Bellagio’s harvest display covers a lot of ground and has a distinctly Indian flair. That’s because the fall display was inspired by designer Ed Libby’s travels to India. We’re betting Ed took a metric hell-ton of photos, as did we.
“Ha, ha,” the horticulturalists say to job applicants with a green thumb. “You’re going to need more thumbs.”
The display boasts a slew of animals including tigers, foxes, peacocks and elephants.
In Hinduism, elephants are the living incarnation of Gahesha, an elephant-headed deity riding a mouse. Oh, like your religion isn’t a little wacky, too.
The tigers are 25 feet long, and are made from yellow lentils, red and black cargo rice and caraway seeds. Yes, we are an amateur horticulturalist. Which basically means we have some artificial flowers on our kitchen table. Just play along.
Hoping Roy Horn doesn’t read blogs.
The tigers will be familiar to fans of the Bellagio Conservatory, but many of the elements are brand new.
We can’t forget the two Hanuman deities, or as we refer to them, “creepy monkeys with poor personal grooming.”
Please send any hate mail to the Bellagio Conservatory. We didn’t make creepy monkeys, they did.
The display, named “Indian Summer,” is culturally diverse, including a floating princess with what appears to be a bladder control problem.
Lost track. How many international incidents have we caused in this article so far?
There are surprises at every turn, and the entryway is especially gorgeous in this display. The entrance features floral arches 24 feet tall. They arches are rimmed by flames, representing the Indian custom of widows throwing themselves onto funeral pyres as a sign of devotion. Way to bring everyone down, Bellagio Conservatory.
Yes, we’re drunk. Get your own blog if you don’t like it.
When you visit the Conservatory, make sure to look up.
There you’ll see chandeliers resembling “kalire,” ornaments worn by brides during Indian wedding ceremonies assuming the guy hasn’t screwed things up during his bachelor party. Um, hello, this is still Las Vegas.
This kalire would make a badass jelly fish for the summer display in 2020.
The harvest display runs through Nov. 30, 2019, with the wildly popular holiday display running Dec. 7, 2019 to Jan. 4, 2020.
Learn more at the official Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden Web site located on the Internet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Culturally insensitive jokes aside, just straight-up awesome, Bellagio flower wranglers.
An iconic Las Vegas neon sign, Vegas Vic, was recently repaired following months of neglect.
The Fremont Street fixture, first erected in 1951, looks better than ever thanks to the efforts of the YESCO sign company. (Before you point it out, we understand “YESCO sign company” is redundant, as YESCO stands for Young Electric Sign Company, so it’s like saying “ATM machine.” We love your freakish attention to detail.)
Here’s a look at Vegas Vic following his rejuvenation surgery!
The neon king of smokin’ and cow-pokin’ is back! Speaking of cowpokes, awkward fact: Bestiality was legal in Nevada until 2017.
Vegas Vic made his debut in 1947, first at the Chamber of Commerce building. Shortly thereafter, he began to stand watch over the Pioneer Club.
Don’t be alarmed if you experience southerly moistness after gazing into Vegas Vic’s piercing blue eyes.
The Pioneer Club casino closed in 1995. Now, it’s a gift shop.
In fact, it was the Pioneer gift shop owner, Haim Gabay, who paid to have Vegas Vic repaired. Gabay is the former owner of the Bonanza Gift Shop, touted as the world’s largest gift shop. He sold Bonanza for $50 million in 2016.
Technically, the responsibility for maintaining Vegas Vic falls to the owner(s) of the building, in this case Schiff Enterprises. The owners have apparently been unresponsive to ongoing requests to get Vegas Vic back up to snuff. Duly noted, Schiff Enterprises.
When Vegas Vic first went up, he was the biggest neon sign in Nevada.
While the 40-foot-tall Vegas Vic is looking infinitely better than in recent months, he’s not the man he used to be.
Originally, Vegas Vic had a moving arm (it stopped moving in 1991) and featured audio saying, “Howdy Podner,” among other things.
In addition, a portion of Vic’s cowboy hat was trimmed away when the Fremont Street Experience was build in 1995.
Look closely and you can see where Vic’s hat was trimmed to accommodate the curve of the Viva Vision video screen.
Worth noting: The red circle in Vic’s pocket is a Durham Tobacco tag hanging from a yellow string. Vic presumably rolled his own.
Vegas Vic’s repair has sparked questions about his counterpart, Vegas Vickie.
Vegas Vickie was taken down in July 2017 (see below), and was recently transported to YESCO for a renovation. Vickie will return to Fremont Street in the new Circa Las Vegas resort in December 2020.
Oh, like we were going to miss a chance to share this photo. Do you know this blog at all?
Vegas Vic and Vegas Vickie were married in 1994. We can’t wait to see the pair reunited again following their legal separation.
Big thanks to the entities, governmental and otherwise, who kept the pressure on to get Vegas Vic back to his former glory.
Vegas Vic is an irreplaceable part of Vegas history, like the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, and it warms our cockles to see him looking so sharp again.